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Psychological interview for children: 7 key ideas on how to do it

Psychological interview for children: 7 key ideas on how to do it

January 6, 2023

The psychological interview for children is a tool that allows gathering information about the emotional, cognitive or behavioral situation of the children. It is one of the most used tools for psychological evaluations and interventions.

In this sense, it is important to take into consideration some questions about its design and application. We will see next what some of these can be.

  • Related article: "Child psychology: a practical guide for fathers and mothers

General characteristics of the psychological interview

In general terms, an interview is a method of gathering information. It is a tool that allows you to collect data through a series of questions on a particular topic. As such, it is a technique that can be used for very different purposes. Depending on these purposes, the interview is structured and applied in one way or another.


When it comes to a psychological interview, the general objective is to gather information about the set of manifestations that make up the psychology of a person. This is, to know cognitive processes, sensations, perceptions, emotions, attitudes and even behavior .

From this, one of the specific objectives of the psychological interview can be for example to know the way in which a person processes or retains information, and from there to perform a certain intervention. The interview can also focus on exploring a particular experience, or, in the possible causes of some behavior or discomfort determined.


In general, the collection of this information is directed towards offering a type of evaluation, determining the characteristics of a particular situation, or it can be used to establish a specific intervention guide.

Types of interview

The psychological interview can be designed in a structured or semi-structured or open manner.

The first case is a series of previously established questions whose order and enunciation do not allow to be modified at the time of realization.

In the second case, the interviewer can previously establish a script, although at the time of the interview admits the possibility of introducing new questions or omitting other . It is a more flexible type of interview.

Finally, in the open interview, a particular topic is previously established, but without the need to set specific questions, since at the time of the interview, the interviewee himself is expected to be more specific about the specific topics he is interested in addressing.


Psychological interview for children: 7 strategies

The psychological interview conducted with a child can have different objectives, and it is from these that the script, the time and the application of the interview will be structured. In general terms, this type of interview requires attention to the psychological resources of the child, their evolutionary development, their interests and hobbies , the sources of family and social support, their perception of the stability of their close contexts and their emotional coping strategies, and their ways of adapting to daily life.

That said, we'll look at some guidelines below that may be important to consider when designing and applying a psychological interview for children.

1. Establish the objectives

The design of the psychological interview consists in determining the objectives of the interview and, based on this, the script and the structure. In other words, the questions may be different according to the purpose of the interview . For example, it will not be the same script if it is to determine if there has been a domestic violence experience, than when it comes to assessing the child's cognitive abilities.

2. Consider the child's evolutionary cycle and its context

When conducting a psychological interview with children, the questions should be adapted to their area of ​​proximal development. According to your age, we can hardly expect him to stay seated answering closed questions for a long period of time. In the same sense, it is important to avoid complex and long questions: the vocabulary must be accessible and close to the child.

3. Free techniques

Related to the above, it is advisable to design an open or semi-structured interview. That is to say, resort to free techniques (with questions that are not answered only with "yes" or "no") and little directives. The feeling of being in an interrogation can be a source of important stress for the child and hinder the process of the interview.

4. Prevent the question from influencing the response

In the same sense, consider that the way in which the interviewer asks a question often guides or influences the response of the interviewee, especially in the case of children. To avoid this it is important to avoid overly specific questions as well as voice tones or forced approaches .

5. The climate of trust

It is important to foster a climate of trust, security and freedom for the child. In this sense the interview must be done in a protected environment, which allows an empathic climate , and with this, the expression of emotions, thoughts and behaviors.

In the same sense, respect the silences and pauses avoiding pressing for an answer that we probably expect. This means that it is necessary to adapt to the emotional situation of the child and respect their own times.

  • Maybe you're interested: "The Rapport: 5 keys to create an environment of trust"

6. Attend to non-verbal language

When applying a psychological interview with children it is very important to take non-verbal language into consideration. This is so because, according to the child's stage of development, his cognitive abilities, his emotional situation and even his socioeconomic context, it may happen that your linguistic resources are limited .

Paying attention to nonverbal language, looks, silences, pauses, redness, gestures, repetitive movements, smiles, volume or tone of voice, etc., can facilitate the understanding of situations that are being source of conflict or satisfaction for the child.

7. Use the game

One of the most used strategies for conducting interviews with children is the game. In general, games adapt more easily to the life cycle of children than direct questions. In addition, it is a close and striking language for them. Especially it is important to use the game at the time of rapport , since it is the situation that precedes the interview and that allows to open the climate of trust. It is also advisable to use during closing.

Again, the games that are used depend to a great extent on the information that we want to collect, and can range from memoramas to drawings or simulations of everyday life.

Bibliographic references:

  • Echeburúa, E. and Subijana, I.J. (2008). Guide of good psychological practice in the judicial treatment of sexually abused children. International Journal of Clinical Health Psychology, 8 (3) [Online]. Retrieved October 18, 2018. Available at //www.redalyc.org/html/337/33712016008/
  • Herjanic, B. and Reich, W. (1997). Development of a Structured Psychiatric Interview for Children: Agreement Between Child and Parent on Individual Symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 25 (1): 21-31.

The Nurture Room (Child Psychology Documentary) - Real Stories (January 2023).


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